Why Shonda Rhimes Doesn’t Like the Word Diversity

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Kerry Washington speaks onstage at Vulture Festival L.A. Photo: Joe Scarnici/Getty Images

Scandal is anything but homogeneous when it comes to the makeup of its cast. It prominently features characters who vary in age, sexual orientation, and race, earning the show and its creator, Shonda Rhimes, praise for its diversity. But Rhimes herself isn’t a fan of that term. “Shonda really does not love the word diversity,” Scandal star Kerry Washington said during a Vulture Festival L.A. panel. “She talks about abandoning the word diversity and replacing it with normalizing.”

The difference, according to Washington, has to do with making sure no person or character is treated as a token addition. “When you’re the only woman in the room, or the only person over 40, or the only LGBTQ person, you don’t get to enter into conversations about what that looks like,” she said. “But when we normalize that combination, then we get to explore what difference means and how it feels and how it lives in the world.”

Washington went on: “You look up at this stage, and what this cast is made up of is a ton of people who society would say belong to minority or disenfranchised group, whether it’s because of their age, or sexual orientation, or race, or gender, or all of the above.” Rather than defining her characters by their otherness, Washington said Rhimes puts all of them on a level playing field, thus making each character “normal.”

“When these people are put together in situations,” Washington said, “you’re avoiding the idea that you’re the only one in the room.”

Shonda Rhimes Doesn’t Like the Word Diversity